Car commercials today increasingly emphasize all the techy widgets, interior amenities, and MPG ratings that they can, ignoring the performance and reliability claims that dominated the automotive advertising landscape for decades. Unfortunately, though, the increasing prevalence of lithium-ion batteries, hybrid electrical system, and technology in cars may have improved outright speed and efficiency stats but these new technologies are also increasingly unreliable.
Modern cars are almost like iPhones in that they need to be replaced every few years or they just stop working—typically right when the warranty coverage expires. Or perhaps the Samsung Galaxy is a more comparable device, given the frequency of fires that high-tech cars seem to suffer from.
But cars combine fuel with air to create an explosion and harness that energy into the form of horsepower, so there's always been a risk of things getting out of control. Of course, the most notorious car ever to suffer from frequent fires was the Ford Pinto, but keep scrolling for 15 other models at increased risk of lighting up.
16 Ford Pinto
The Ford Pinto has become Detroit's poster child for automotive design and engineering gone wrong—not to mention the scandal that came about because of the famous Pinto Memo that circulated at Ford. The car's design was definitely flawed and made fires more likely from rear-end collisions, while Ford's response was even worse. The fact that one is still on the road and driving to Jimmy John's is terrifying.
15 Chevrolet Volt
Many electric vehicles and hybrids have developed reputations for going up in smoke. Chevy's Volt plug-in hybrid fits into that category and GM even had to issue a recall to attempt a fix for the problem. The real issue, however, is that when battery-powered cars do light up, they burn faster and hotter than gasoline-powered vehicles.
14 Mini Cooper
BMW struck gold when they revived the famous Mini Cooper for the modern era—and not just because they got Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron to blast around LA in the tiny cars for The Italian Job. However, as popular as the 21st-century Mini has become, the cars do have a habit of spontaneous combustion.
13 Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer has suffered from more than its fair share of controversies and scandals over the years. From the early reports of a brewing legal fracas between Ford and Firestone surrounding rollover risks, the Explorer's story just got worse. But the Explorer earned the nickname "Exploder" for good reason, having elevated levels of fire risk due to a faulty cruise control system.
12 Ford Ranger
Ford has definitely had to cope with its fair share of scandals over the years, even if Ford fanboys will cling to the brand because it didn't require a government bailout. Another model that was struck by high chances of fires was the Ranger pickup truck. The same cruise control switch was used that caused problems in the Explorer.
11 Ford Windstar
Ford has been a longtime pioneer of modular car manufacturing, even recently cutting down their number of platforms to just five going forward. Keeping things streamline can increase profits but when the same parts are used across a wide range of models and one of those parts has a high risk of combining electricity and hydraulic oil—as in the same cruise control switch again used on the Windstar van—widespread problems can occur.
10 Tesla Model S
The popularity of fully electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S has led fire departments the world over to reeducate first responders about the dangers of car fires. When the large batteries that power the EVs does end up catching fire, the result can be catastrophic. News of Tesla fires has been widespread, though most of the stories point back to a garage fire in China.
9 Fisker Karma
The Fisker Karma could have been a strong competitor for Tesla, had it remained on the market. Perhaps Henrik Fisker wasn't as good at creating a cult of personality as Elon Musk—or perhaps he should have tried to do what Tesla didn't and create a car that didn't have the unfortunate tendency to catch fire.
8 Jeep Wrangler
The off-road community claims a dedicated and passionate fanbase online, especially through video streaming, where dedicated channels show all the ins and outs of taking cars off the tarmac. Of course, the Jeep Wrangler features heavily on these shows, which isn't great for Fiat Chrysler because numerous new Wranglers have been caught on camera going up in flames.
7 Chevy Vega
The Chevrolet Vega was yet another attempt by Detroit manufacturers to produce an economy car for the masses. Unfortunately, the result, in this case, was a car that was built to subpar standards. The Vega suffered from a terrible reputation for breaking down and catching fire and very few of the cars have lived to tell the tale today.
6 Lamborghini Veneno
When someone buy a luxury supercar for millions of dollars, they expect it to be pretty flawless. As divisive as the hideously styled Lamborghini Veneno may be, it should, at the very least, be a potent performer during spirited driving. Hilariously, though, Lamborghini had to recall all 12 Venenos because of a fuel system flaw shared with the underlying Aventador V12 engine.
5 Ferrari 458 Italia
Ferrari may be the most recognizable car brand in the world but the company has never been known for the reliability of its cars. Still, in the modern era, Ferrari buyers shouldn't have to be worried about their vehicles catching fire. But the 458 Italia had to be recalled because Ferrari used a type of adhesive that was prone to fires.
4 Jaguar F-Type
Another luxury manufacturer that has created some of the most beautiful and timeless cars in the history of the automobile is Jaguar. Even Enzo Ferrari thought the E-Type Jag was the most beautiful car ever built. But Enzo didn't have to worry about Jaguar besting him in terms of reliability because even today's F-Type is prone to burning to dust.
3 Ferrari FF
The Ferrari 458 Italia isn't the only modern Ferrari that's suffered from a rash of fires. If a few examples of a Toyota Corolla go up in smoke, it's a different kind of statistic because there are so many Corollas on the road. But Ferrari builds in limited numbers, so when an FF shooting brake lights up, the chances of others doing the same get pretty nerve-racking for owners.
2 Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86
Subaru and Toyota are two Japanese manufacturers known for their reliability, so when they teamed up to create the little sports cars alternately known as the Scion FR-S, the Subaru BRZ, and the Toyota 86, it would seem to make sense that the model would be as good as it gets. But the nimble coupe has an engine problem that certainly won't have its owners laughing out loud.
1 Pontiac Fiero
The fact that the Pontiac Fiero left the factory with elevated risks of catching on fire is sad yet hilarious. The car's name translates to fire! The Fiero was a disappointment in many different ways and seeing one on the road today is certainly rare, especially given that the rear-mid-engined car was prone to leaking oil directly onto the exhaust manifold, which could quickly lead to flames.
Sources: Car Throttle, Mother Nature Network, and Wikipedia.